When temperatures drop below freezing, homeowners must take steps to prevent pipes from freezing, which could lead to costly repairs if the pipes eventually burst.
Common causes of frozen pipes are a sudden drop in temperature, poor insulation, or an incorrectly programmed thermostat.
According to AAA, plastic and copper pipes can burst, and even an eighth-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, significant structural damage and potential of mould.
AAA Lists seven ways to prevent pipes from freezing when temperatures plunge into the heart of winter.
1. Insulate your pipes
Before the temperatures drop, it’s a good idea to wrap your pipes in insulation to protect them from cold air. The pipes most likely to freeze are those in an attic or crawl space and those that run along exterior walls. Many attics and crawl spaces are unheated, which means temperatures there can be significantly lower than those in your living space.
2. Use caulk or insulation to seal air leaks around pipes
Any leaks around your pipes that allow cold air to come inside should be sealed tightly using caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. AAA says you should also check for air leaks around electrical wiring and dryer vents.
3. Disconnect garden hoses, sprinklers
If there is a shut-off valve, any water flow to outside sources such as pipes, sprinklers or outside faucets must be closed. Garden hoses and sprinklers should also be disconnected and brought inside. All water in pipes leading to outdoor faucets should be drained before freezing temperatures to reduce the chance of pipes inside the house freezing.
4. Let the water run from the faucets
Consider setting your faucets to a slow drip if sub-freezing temperatures are expected, especially faucets near an exterior wall. AAA says even a light trickle can keep your pipes from freezing.
5. Don’t adjust the thermostat before bed
Many people turn down the temperature on their thermostat before going to bed to save money on their heating bills. When temperatures are likely to drop below freezing, you should maintain the same thermostat setting at night as you would during the day. Temperature drops, which are more common at night, can cause pipes in your home to freeze. According to Consumer Reports, your thermostat should never be set below 55 degrees.
6. Open cabinet doors
When cabinet doors are closed, heat is unable to reach uninsulated pipes under sinks, exposing them to colder temperatures. By opening the cabinets, you allow heat to reach these pipes and reduce their risk of freezing.
7. Know where the water shutoff valve is and how it works
In the event that your pipes are frozen, AAA says you’ll want to close the house’s main water shutoff valve. Doing this important step will reduce the damage from a burst pipe because there would be no water to feed the leak. You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe using a hair dryer: start by heating the section of pipe closest to the faucet, then work your way to the coldest part of the pipe. If a water main has already burst, make sure the water is turned off at the main shutoff valve, leave the water faucets open, then call a plumber for help.